No Vindication for Chrysler Burn Victims

Two and a half years ago, Stephen Mares’s 1998 Dodge Caravan caught on fire after the minivan’s fuel system leaked, trapping him and his two children.  After he survived, he sued Chrysler seeking punitive damages for his and his children’s burns.  However, he soon found that Chrysler is immune from new punitive-damage claims from any defective products sold before the auto maker’s 2009 government-brokered restructuring. This legal exemption, approved by a bankruptcy judge, is a rule that’s included in the federal bankruptcy law.

Unfortunately, he was not able to receive any money to compensate him and his children for their pain, suffering or medical bills.  Chrysler has received a “get out of jail free card” and is escaping all penalties and damages they caused others prior to the restructuring.

Navajo Men Suing BNSF over Lung Disease

Four Navajo Nation members, who were former railroad workers, are now all suffering from lung disease.  Consequently, they recently filed a lawsuit against BNSF Railway.  They allege that due to the exposure to dusty work conditions their lungs and respiratory systems were damaged.  They were exposed to toxic ballast rock, gravel, coal dust and fibers.  Unfortunately, BNSF failed to provide ventilation, warnings and protection that constitute a safe work environment.

Two of the workers began work for the railroad in the 1940s and the other two in the 1960s.  The effects of these labor conditions, especially over an extended period of time, take a toll on the body and can go unnoticed for years.  Some of the symptoms include shortness of breath, chest tightness, chest pain and abnormal breathing patterns.  They claim that thousands of men were exposed to similar conditions due to BNSF’s negligence.

Class Action Lawsuit against Ford

Recently, a New Jersey man, Galo Coba, filed a lawsuit seeking class action status against Ford Motor Company.  Coba and his company, Cob Landscaping and Construction Inc., filed suit in New Jersey.  He alleges that Ford knowingly sold F-series and E-series trucks with bad fuel tank linings.  The F-series pickup is the bestselling truck in the U.S.  This lawsuit wants to represent anyone who purchased any of the models of these trucks made between 1999 and 2008.

Allegedly, the defective vehicles’ fuel tank lining may degrade and flake off inside the fuel tank.  This would clog the fuel system which results in sudden losses of engine power.  This would then cause trucks to become hard to control and potentially stall, both of which significantly increase the risk of an automobile accident.

Not only does the lawsuit assert this malfunction but also that Ford knew about the problems and failed to alert consumers or issue a recall. This would be clear negligence on the part of Ford.  In 2007, Ford dealers were advised of the potential defect in a secret technical service bulletin.  However, Ford and its dealers never offered to make free repairs for the fuel tanks.  The lawsuit accuses Ford of breach of warranty, fraud and more.  The plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages.  If the suit can be certified as a class action, it could include up to hundreds of thousands of plaintiffs.

Inadequate Construction Leads to Sugarland Stage Collapse

Last August, the stage at the Indiana State Fair collapsed moments before Sugarland was to take the stage.  This resulted in the death of 7 individuals and now a lawsuit.  Numerous victims filed a civil lawsuit against Sugarland and the stage construction companies.

The cause of the collapse is cited as being a lack of clear authority.  State Fair officials warned Sugarland’s manager that they should consider canceling due to the storm, but the manager did not take heed.  Then the Indiana State Police Captain decided to call it off, but the stage collapsed before the announcement.  The winds had picked up to a speed that was beyond the stage’s capability to withstand. A deposition was held last week as the suit continues.

Coach Sues Community College over Defamation

Bob Every, a former softball coach at Lansing Community College, is suing the college claiming that they defamed him after firing him last year.  He claims that the college falsely reported to the National Junior College Athletic Associate that he struck a female athlete.  The athlete claims he struck her with a closed fist.

Every claims it is false and has been the worst nightmare of his life.  He worked for the college for almost four decades and now feels his reputation is ruined.  He wants the LCC and the player to retract their statements.  Trial dates have yet to be scheduled.

Nothing to Spaz about in This Drug: Topamax

Topiramate is an anticonvulsant or antiepilepsy drug for both children and adults.  A study sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline showed the following side effects more common in this drug than its competition, lamotrigine,: parasthesia, upper respiratory tract infection, diarrhea, nausea, anorexia, and memory problems.  Other side effects include: psychomotor slowing, blindness, memory problems, fatigue, confusion and somnolence.

But, one recent FDA drug safety warning was very disturbing.  It stated that an increased risk of cleft palate, cleft lip and other oral birth defects in children born to mothers taking Topamax exists.  In 2010, two subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturers of the drug, agreed to pay more than $81 million in fines related to the illegal promotion of Topamax related to unapproved (“off-label”) psychiatric use.  Topamax is also sometimes prescribed for migraines.  Lawsuits continue as more and more children are born with defects, and as more patients are prescribed this dangerous drug.

Taking Aim at California Drive-by Lawsuits

“Drive-by” lawsuits filed against small business all over California have increased significantly.  People in California are more and more taking advantage of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act.  Under the current law, it is fairly easy for predatory plaintiffs to access $4,000 for each violation, per day, regardless of how trivial or easily fixable the violation is.  However, small-business owners will usually settle, often for tens of thousands of dollars, in exchange for the plaintiff and lawyer to “forget” about the violations.

Consequently, Senator Dianne Feinstein demanded that the Legislature do something to stop the small group of plaintiffs and lawyers that “threaten the viability of small businesses in our state.”

Lightning Strikes Construction Site

Family members and the two survivors of last year’s lightning strike that killed a Revel construction worker filed lawsuits against multiple construction companies.  Bryan Bradley, a 40-year-old concrete working was killed last September after being struck by lightning while working in the Revel Casino.  While he is the only one to have died, two other men were also struck.  The lawsuits claim the wrongful death was due to negligence on the part of the companies’.

The Occupations Safety & Health Administration fined Network Construction for violating federal regulations.  Once a local storm warning had been issued, a person in charge should have determined if equipment needed to be secured and this did not happen.  Now, it is up to the courts to see if they find negligence on the part of the construction companies.

Discriminated Veteran Fired at Home Depot

Brian Bailey, a Home Depot employee, was recently fired because of his military obligations.  This violates a federal law and, thus, the Justice Department filed suit.  They allege that Home Depot fired Bailey because he sometimes had to leave work for military obligations.  This violates the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994.

Justice lawyers have requested that he be reinstated to his position and receive lost compensation and other benefits.  Home Depot has yet to respond; however, this case is significant as many military personnel come home from the war.

Second Time Around for Chevron, Transocean Brazilian Lawsuit

A Brazilian federal prosecutor recently launched his second $10.9 billion lawsuit against Chevron and driller Transocean.  This new lawsuit is related to an oil leak discovered on March 4 in Chevron’s Frade field, just Northeast of Rio de Janeiro.  This suit also seeks to prevent Chevron and Transocean from operating in Brazil.

This leak may have damaged the Frade reservoir, making it impossible to produce from the field, denying Brazil its right to royalties on a natural, public resource.  However, Chevron claims the damage is minute, 0.1% of BP’S spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Furthermore, politicians in Brazil are now worried that this prosecutor will deter oil companies to do business with them.  This industry is vital to their economy as it makes up 10% of GDP.  The monetary damages sought between the two cases are $2 billion more than BP set aside to pay damages for its spill.